Fervor and Failure in Mexican Revolutionary Poetry

This presentation explores the ephemeral nature of revolutionary poetry in Mexico, specifically Sangre roja by Carlos Gutiérrez Cruz. The quintessential poet of the Bolshevik Revolution, Vladimir Mayakovsky, visited Mexico in 1925. In letters and interviews, he concluded that the political climate was not favorable for a proletarian revolution. Although unimpressed with Gutiérrez Cruz’s overly lyrical poetic style, Mayakovsky translated selections of the Mexican poet’s work, including the poem “Sangre roja”, into Russian. I examine Gutiérrez Cruz’s representation of the proletarian struggle in Sangre roja as well as Mayakovsky’s vision as outlined in the poem “Mexico” published in My Discovery of America (1925). The overwhelming influence of the group Los Contemporáneos ultimately led to the complete marginalization of revolutionary poets such as Gutiérrez Cruz and their virtual disappearance from the cultural panorama.

 I also argue that the recent rediscovery of Gutiérrez Cruz’s poetry has an important political function in the contemporary Mexican cultural landscape. Sangre roja was published in a daring collection of forgotten poetry entitled Archivo negro de la poesía mexicana in 2014 by the independent editorial, Malpaís Ediciones. First, this gesture resists the commercialization of literature. Archivo negro, consisting of ten intricately designed books of poetry, is intended for a small audience. Second, the act of compiling a collection of literary works is a politically charged project. It is a way to engage in, to challenge, and to change how and why cultural products are valued. 

Track: 

  • Spanish American Studies